Coral Reefs, the Human View

Part B: A Closer Look at Coral

Close-up view of a hard coral skeleton. Photo source: Clinton Community College Biology Web.

Corals live in the sea, but sometimes we find pieces of them on land. Perhaps you've stumbled across a fragment of coral on a beach or have seen a piece of coral jewelry. Although you should never remove coral from the ocean or buy precious coral jewelry, studying the skeletal remains of coral can help us learn about what they were like when they were still alive.

  1. Examine the coral samples brought in by your teacher, first by eye and then with a magnifying glass or under a microscope if possible. For each sample, consider the following questions:
    • Where did the coral sample come from?
    • Is the surface of coral sample rough or smooth to the touch?
    • Is the coral sample white or colorful?
    • What shape is the coral sample? Is it symmetric?

    Checking In

    • Do the coral samples brought into class look like the corals you saw in the videos? What makes them similar or different?
  2. Coral reefs are teeming with life on every surface, in every crevice, and in the surrounding waters. Examine a living coral reef ecosystem by visiting a local aquarium or by checking out the following web cams with live streaming video:
    • Philippines Coral Reef Cam from California Academy of Sciences (Be patient for the video stream to load.)
    • Cayman Reef Cam (Be patient for the video stream to load.)

    Stop and Think

    3: Describe the biodiversity you observed on the reef: How many different shapes and colors of coral were you able to identify on each reef? How many different types and sizes of fish? How many other animals? How do you think these numbers compare to the actual number of species that make up/inhabit the reef? Explain.

    4: How might you go about determining exactly how many species live on a reef and what their ideal living conditions and relationships are? Explain.

Optional Extension

Go on a virtual dive at XL Catlin Seaview Survey